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Hermaneutics: Insights and lessons from Cannes Lions 2013

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The advertising industry in focus from the editor of By Herman Manson (@marklives)


Cannes Lions is behind us and senior agency staff is back in the country after a week of talks, presentations, ceremony and partying.


It’s always interesting to see what insights they bring back and this year is no different. Alistair King, Chief Creative Officer at King James Group, offers a no holds barred view on the judging process at Cannes Lions.


My personal view of what King seems to suggest is that the success or the failure of the judging process often depends on group dynamics and the leadership provided to any group of judges. This year, under the leadership of Sir John Hegarty, the process in the Film category (which King helped judge) went smoothly and was both constructive and non-political.


In the past King had experienced voting blocks around national lines as well as favour trading. “By its very nature, the award process is flawed,” writes King. “There are 3500 commercials and films to view over the first 3 days and one can fully expect the opinion of 22 jury members to differ vastly from that of a different set of 22.”


King offers valuable insights into the judging process, offering insight in how the initial shortlist is drawn up, and points our winning trends in the work he judged. “Anyone who suggests that the traditional TV ad is on the decline is kidding themselves,” writes King. “What was very apparent this year is that much of the great production values still lie in the traditional space.”


King notes that judges acknowledged that ‘everything has been done before’ so the focus shifted to what is fresh from what could be considered ‘original’. Judges looked for work ‘that makes you feel something different or offers a unique perspective on the brand and the category in which it operates,’ according to King.


This was also the year of the split screen, says King, while ads playing on emotion tended to run longer – up to 50 seconds or more – underscoring that telling stories really does take time.


Charl Thom, Group MD at FoxP2, echoes King when he says execution separates the great from the good. A good ad is 80% idea and 80% execution, as Sir John Hegarty likes to say. Thom writes that authenticity is the non-digital revolution sweeping our industry, and notes that advertising will never be able to fool people again and that its focus needs to shift away from fake product interactions (to offering value and entertainment – in my view).


Convergence continues to be the name of the game, and Thom admits that terms like ‘old media’ or ‘new media’ have already become obsolete.


Thom also reminds us that great work is a culture – ‘this is true in an agency, and it’s true for clients,’ says Thom. Part of that culture needs to be doing the right thing rather than the convenient thing – it’s what gains you allies, believers, reach and a legacy.


The opinions expressed in this column are by the author and do not necessarily represent those of 10and5. 


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